Hair Loss

Stress causing your hair loss – here’s what you need to know

Stress causing your hair loss - here's what you need to know

Katrina Lopez was worried when she started noticing a lot of her hair was falling out in the shower in April 2020. The New York emergency medicine nurse suspected stress was to blame.

“My stress was directly related to work and the pandemic and all the tragedies I saw and how helpless I felt during this time,” says Lopez, who was mourning the loss of several patients and family members. deceased from COVID-19.

All over social media, you see people complaining about hair loss caused by high stress, including pandemic-induced anxiety.

Losing your hair can be scary. But experts say a common form of stress-related hair loss, called telogen effluvium, is usually temporary.

Dr. Caroline Robinson, dermatologist and founder of Tone Dermatology, says one of the most common reasons for hair loss is stress.

“When our bodies are under extreme stress, such as from surgery, the death of a loved one, childbirth, viral infection, or even from the ongoing global pandemic itself. likewise, we can see a significant change in our hair from the growth phase to the shedding phase,” says Robinson. “It’s a condition called telogen effluvium, and it’s much more common than many realize. .”

According to Harvard Medical School, telogen effluvium can also be triggered by major physical trauma, extreme weight loss, extreme change in diet, abrupt hormonal changes, or iron deficiency.

Dr. Michele S. Green, a dermatologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, says he’s seen an influx of people seeking treatment for hair loss during their quarantine over the past year.

“Patients literally came in with bags of hair, looking like a full head of hair in the bag,” says Green. “They all have similar stories – that they were extremely sick with high fevers and have never been so sick in their entire lives.”

Anabel Kingsley, who specializes in treating hair and scalp issues at Philip Kingsley Hair Care Clinic, says people often don’t make the connection between hair loss and stress because it doesn’t usually happen. right now.

“Most of the hair loss you experience occurs between six and 12 weeks after a stressful event due to the nature of your hair growth cycle,” she says.

Robinson says hair loss can also appear months after the stressful event and “linger as long as the stressor affects us.”

Dr. Samer Jaber, a dermatologist at Washington Square Dermatology in New York, says the condition can be “quite severe,” people can lose up to 50% of their hair, and it can last for months.

Fortunately, says Jaber, stress-related hair loss is usually not permanent.

“Telogen effluvium usually goes away on its own after a few months, although in some patients it can be chronic,” he says.

Jaber says there are also two other conditions involving hair loss that can be triggered by stress: alopecia areata, in which you have circular patches of hair loss all over your scalp, and trichotrillomania, which is the urge to tug or pull your hair, which can be made worse by stress.

“Alopecia areata can be treated, and trichotrillomania is usually reversible if stopped quickly, although in severe cases trichotrillomania can lead to scarring hair loss,” he says.

Besides causing hair loss, stress can also wreak havoc on your scalp in other ways, Kingsley says.

“Stress also triggers and/or worsens flaking and itchy scalp, especially if you’re already prone to dandruff,” says Kingsley. “That’s because stress can affect hormone levels as well as the skin’s barrier function.”

This peeling can cause more hair loss. And scratching it can lead to further irritation.

If you’re stressed, you might also find that your roots become limp and oily faster than usual, Kingsley says, because stress can increase the production of scalp oils.

Unlike androgenic alopecia – male or female pattern baldness – which causes follicles to shrink and hair production to stop altogether, Kingsley says stress-related hair issues can be resolved.

A few ways to do this:

  • Reduce stress – “The first priority is to reduce stress through exercise, meditation, prayer, or whatever stress reduction technique works best for you,” says Jaber.
  • Go easy on your hair — “It’s so important not to engage in hair practices that exacerbate symptoms by further weakening the hair shaft,” Robinson says. “I recommend adopting gentle hair care practices and avoiding excess heat, color or chemical processing.”
  • Stick to a healthy, consistent diet — “Because hair is a non-essential tissue, it’s often the first thing to suffer if your body lacks nutrients,” Kingsley says. “Vitamin imbalances, iron deficiency, insufficient protein intake, and meals with too few calories can all contribute to hair loss.”
  • Consult a doctor or specialist if necessary: “If your hair loss worries you or persists, see a board-certified dermatologist so they can diagnose and treat you appropriately,” says Jaber. “Topical Rogaine and vitamin supplements can sometimes be helpful.”

Contributor: Adrianna Rodriguez